My Dangerous Desires

A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 41 photographs Published: November 2000

Author: Amber L. Hollibaugh

Contributor: Dorothy Allison

Activism, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies

Amber L. Hollibaugh is a lesbian sex radical, ex-hooker, incest survivor, gypsy child, poor-white-trash, high femme dyke. She is also an award-winning filmmaker, feminist, Left political organizer, public speaker, and journalist. My Dangerous Desires presents over twenty years of Hollibaugh’s writing, an introduction written especially for this book, and five new essays including “A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home,” “My Dangerous Desires,” and “Sexuality, Labor, and the New Trade Unionism.”
In looking at themes such as the relationship between activism and desire or how sexuality can be intimately tied to one’s class identity, Hollibaugh fiercely and fearlessly analyzes her own political development as a response to her unique personal history. She explores the concept of labeling and the associated issues of categories such as butch or femme, transgender, bisexual, top or bottom, drag queen, b-girl, or drag king. The volume includes conversations with other writers, such as Deirdre English, Gayle Rubin, Jewelle Gomez, and Cherríe Moraga. From the groundbreaking article “What We’re Rollin’ Around in Bed With” to the radical “Sex Work Notes: Some Tensions of a Former Whore and a Practicing Feminist,” Hollibaugh charges ahead to describe her reality, never flinching from the truth. Dorothy Allison’s moving foreword pays tribute to a life lived in struggle by a working-class lesbian who, like herself, refuses to suppress her dangerous desires.
Having informed many of the debates that have become central to gay and lesbian activism, Hollibaugh’s work challenges her readers to speak, write, and record their desires—especially, perhaps, the most dangerous of them—“in order for us all to survive.”


“[A] 20-year collection of deeply provocative dispatches from the faultline where lesbian activism and AIDS activism meet.” — Beth Hastie , POZ

“A smart and provocative collection. . . . As a primer on queer history and politics in the 20th century, My Dangerous Desires fills an important gap, giving voice to the kinds of experience traditional feminism has mostly ignored. . . . [One] can’t help admire the sheer breadth of Hollibaugh’s undertaking—it reflects a life lived in passionate struggle and commitment to liberation for all.” — Elisabeth Flynn , Lambda Book Report

(Starred Review) “A stunning collection of essays and interviews. . . . Hollibaugh's writing is sharp and glittering. . . . This provocative, challenging collection could become a feminist classic.” — , Publishers Weekly

“[Hollibaugh’s] essays, spanning 20 years, read like a radical, captivating autobiography.” — The Advocate

“[Hollibaugh’s] life has had more dizzying twists and turns than the two land roadway that leads up Pike’s Peak. Indeed, following her life story could produce a bad case of whiplash. [Her] new book is her way of explaining all the contradictions in her life.” — Nancy Traver , Chicago Tribune

“[Hollibaugh’s] willingness to take her own body, its desires and scars, as her primary text, to risk turning herself into spectacle in order to claim a voice, stands at the head of this collection. . . . That most of the book’s pieces were written for occasions does not make it less satisfying; just the opposite—you have the sense that each was written because it was something somebody needed to hear at that moment. . . . This book could easily have been a pathology witten from the outside—or from the inside. It is only sheer will and good writing that resists an easy coherence, that insists on leaving the fragment fragmentary, glowing with bitter edges. . . . Amber Hollibaugh offers more than history here. She offers a method.” — Meryl Altman , Women's Review of Books

“[Hollibaugh] reaches across lines of race, class, and sexual expression to advocate for a messier, all-inclusinve LGBT movement. In her writing as well is a brave refusal to shed any of her identities, to hide any of her choices, no matter how complex or contradictory they may seem.” — Clancy Nolan , Independent Weekly

“Amber Hollibaugh reinvigorates the somewhat shopworn phrase ‘the personal is political’ in this delightfully uncategorizable, genre-crossing book documenting her life as a working-class labor activist from a dusty California town. . . . Hollibaugh’s work delivers on its promise of unflinching bravery in the face of those who wish to silence us, whether for political efficacy or personal preference. Just as Emma Goldman didn’t want to be part of any revolution that wouldn’t let her dance, so too does Hollibaugh argue eloquently that ‘there is no human hope without the promise of ecstasy.’ Amen, and pass the Kool-Aid.” — Jennifer Maher , Bitch

“I would recommend My Dangerous Desires because it is important for a voice like Hollibaugh’s to be heard. It is especially important for lesbians and others who did not live through the events she discusses to know that we have been fighting many of the same battles for years. It is important, too, for all of us to be reminded that the struggles go on and we must be ever vigilant about our own narrowness of vision and biases. My admiration for Hollibaugh endures.” — Judith Branzburg , Lesbian Review of Books

“In My Dangerous Desires, [Hollibaugh’s] personal story of hurt, longing, self-discovery, and personal and political empowerment frames an American story of human rights activism, an open discussion of the individual meanings and pleasures of lesbian sexuality, and the too-little recognized vulnerability of lesbians—and women of all economic classes—to AIDS.” — Front Page

“Like the discoverer of longitude, Hollibaugh has given new coordinates to a whole generation of activists who are trying to find themselves and their way. She’s added contours to the topography of sexual politics. With any luck, the benefits won’t be felt by the queer world alone.” — Laura Flanders , Progressive

“This is a fascinating and moving book that once you begin to read, you do not want to put it down. . . . [A] recommended book for all public and academic libraries.” — AIDS Book Review Journal

“This memoir-cum-collected-works is a seductive tour through Hollibaugh’s thirty years as an activist, lover, and political theorist. It is also a biting critique of gay politics today.” — Heather Findlay , Girlfriends

"Alarming, inspiring, sometimes heartbreaking . . . [and] searingly frank. . . . In these essays are considerable pain, pride, humor, and passion, and all display a combination of feeling and intellect that make for powerful reading. . . . A shimmering, important work that speaks volumes about facing one’s personal truths and our shared political landscape." — Foreword Reviews

"Engaging . . . how fascinating a life Hollibaugh has led." — Library Journal

"This collection of essays and interviews works as a theoretical exploration, a political manifesto, and a passionate memoir. Indeed, this book provides a much-needed archive of sexual political activism and foregrounds the often forgotten fact that struggles around sexuality and identity are always connected to the lived pain, pleasure and messiness of desire. . . . Hollibaugh's work is a vivid expression of the assertion that 'the personal is political'-but that phrase is overused and undertheorized. Hollibaugh's writing, however, is vibrant and compelling, bringing the theory of queer identity politics, sex trade work, race, and class inequity and gender identity into work that does not just claim 'the personal is political,' but that makes the argument with convincing and compelling detail." — Ailsa Craig, Archives of Sexual Behavior

“Amber Hollibaugh is a brilliant activist intellectual from trailer park America.Her particular queer working-class life has taught her the skills, risks and pleasures of radically changing society-and social movements—from their despised edges. We’re lucky she hasn’t kept this dangerous knowledge a secret. For years her written and spoken words have made history. Now we have them all in a book that belongs in the toolbox of every working person. Pick it up and put it to work.” — Allan Bérubé

“At a time when the once-fire of the gay and lesbian movement is being extinguished by the seduction of middle class acceptability, Amber Hollibaugh raises her voice in an equally-seductive cry of queer resistance. My Dangerous Desires is a history book of one of our most faithful freedom fighters, told in the story of her own sexual-spiritual survival. Informed as much by the Civil Rights Movement as the Stonewall Rebellion, Amber Hollibaugh’s politic is one first forged in the bedrooms, the bar rooms and the back rooms of the working poor. A generation later, they are not forgotten; this book remains a living testimony for those unknown and untold by the gay and lesbian movement. Gracias, Amber.” — Cherrie Moraga, author of Loving in the War Years

“I welcome you to my friend’s essays, to the unique sharp-eyed glance of a woman who had to fight to be able to say, ‘I want.’ In Amber’s life, desire has been made sacred. Whether she is writing about the female body, the femme psyche, or the fearful need to admit desire itself, Amber has vindicated all our lives.” — Dorothy Allison, from the Foreword


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Amber Hollibaugh has been a political activist for over thirty years. The documentary film she coproduced and directed, The Heart of the Matter, won the Freedom of Expression award at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival. Among her health education work, she founded and directed the Lesbian AIDS Project at Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York, for which she won the Dr. Susan M. Love Award for Achievement in Women’s Health. She has written for, among others, The Nation, Socialist Review, NY Native, and the Village Voice. My Dangerous Desires is her first book.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction (1999)

A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home (1999)

Sexuality and the State: The Defeat of the Briggs Initiative and Beyond

An Interview with Amber Hollibaugh

Socialist Review, May/June 1979

What We’re Rollin’ Around in Bed With: Sexual Silences in Feminism—a conversation toward ending them

Amber Hollibaugh and Cherrie Moraga Heresies Magazine, 1979/1980

Desire for the Future: Radical Hope in Passion and Danger
from Pleasure and Danger, edited by Carole Vance (Routledge Press, 1993)

The Right to Rebel
Gay Left Journal #9 (1979)

Talking Sex: A Conversation on Sexuality and Feminism
With Deirdre English, Amber Hollibaugh, and Gayle Rubin
Socialist Review, 1978

Opposite Sex: Lesbians and Gay Men Talk About Each Others’ Sexuality
An Interview with Amber Hollibaugh, Jewelle Gomez, and Gayle Rubin
(Sara Miles and Eric Rofes, ed., 1998)

Femme Fables Columns
New York Native, 1983/1984

The Gap She Fostered

A Barren Expanse of Loneliness

Intimate Signs of War

Sympathy of the Blood
The Village Voice, June 1984

Strategies for Freedom
The Nation, May 1993

Sex Work Notes: Some Tensions of a Former Whore and a Practicing Feminist (1999)

Lesbianism is not a Condom
LAP Notes, 1992

Transmission, Transmission, Where’s the Transmission?
Sojourner Newspaper, June 1994

Lesbian Denial and Lesbian Leadership in the AIDS Epidemic: Bravery and Fear in the Construction of a Lesbian Geography of Risk
from Feminist Empowerment in the Age of AIDS, Nancy Stoller and Beth Schneider, editors (Temple University Press, 1996)

Sexuality, Labor, and the New Trade Unionism: A Conversation with Amber Hollibaugh and Nikhil Pal Singh
Out at Work (1999

A Grande Dame: The Femme Interview
An Interview with Amber Hollibaugh
Fem(me) Anthology (1999)

My Dangerous Desires: Falling in Love with Stone Butches, Passing Women, and Girls (Who are Guys) Who Catch My Eye (1999)

Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Finalist, Lambda Literary Book Award in Lesbian Biography/Autobiography

Finalist, Lambda Literary Book Award in Lesbian Studies

Winner, Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Nonfiction

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2619-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2625-0
Publicity material